For many years, scientists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have come to the understanding that addiction is caused by substances in a drug that bring the addict back for more. Rat experiments that began decades ago proved that a rat alone in a cage with two water bottles – one with regular water and one with water laced with cocaine – would become addicted and end up dying from the drug. This was the basis for many addiction-related studies to come, regarding substance abuse.
However, a professor out of Vancouver named Bruce Alexander noted that the rat was alone in the cage, with nothing to do but drink the drugged water. He wondered what would happen if the drugs were available to rats who had companionship and activities to participate in. Alexander built what he called a “Rat Park,” where rats could play, eat food, and enjoy running through tunnels. There were still the two water bottles, but the rats didn’t like the drugged water. None of the rats died, and they consumed less than a quarter of what the isolated rats used. This new discovery suggests that human connection – or companionship, in the case of the rats – has a massive effect on drug use. Being alone and solitary may have greater effect on addiction than previously thought.
Click here to read the full article by Johann Hari for Huffington Post.